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Sustainable work is networked work – Interview with Inga Höltmann

© Axel Kuhlmann

Inga Höltmann is an expert on cultural change in business, New Work and digital leadership. She is the founder of the digital leadership academy “Accelerate Academy,” a platform for New Work and learning, and a trained business journalist. She also writes a popular newsletter and is a podcaster. All good reasons to talk to her about sustainable work and New Work.

Inga, you are an expert on corporate culture change, New Work and digital leadership. What does sustainable work look like to you? And which skills, in your opinion, are becoming more and more important?

For me, future-oriented work is networked work. That means engaging in collaborative and co-creative work with each other and communicating in a networked way. Digitalization and transformation are essentially communication processes and I see in my work with companies that they are stumbling over their transformation, especially where they are not yet able to keep up with their communication.

I’m strongly convinced that the only effective response to the increasing complexity around companies is to increase their internal complexity. An essential point is to communicate more complexly. And I’m not talking about communicating any more, or even more people setting up e-mail cascades in CC; but rather being more transparent, sharing information, and promoting ownership.

And these are also the skills we will need in the future: self-responsibility and self-leadership, the ability to communicate in a network and the will to learn constantly. Incidentally, for me, that’s what I mean by “digital leadership.” It’s modern leadership that is independent of hierarchical structures, reciprocally related to the environment – everyone is a “digital leader,” in their field and in their task.

And how will companies and our way of working change?

I think that the big challenge for companies is to rebuild their internal organizational structures in time to reflect that complexity. This is not easy, especially because the values ​​in companies are changing and the image of humanity is changing. It was not so long ago that it was about compliance with rules and process knowledge in companies. But the signs are changing, the role of humans is changing, and the understanding of leadership is, too. These are profound, sometimes painful, processes but they have to happen very quickly, since we’ll experience a few surprises.

What chances do you personally see in New Work?

New forms of cooperation in companies make previously untapped potential in companies accessible; I am strongly convinced of that. That’s why organizational learning is so important to me: breaking up silos and developing people are the real challenges of digital transformation. This is much more difficult than digitalizing a process, but at the same time it’s the key to success.

For me, New Work is a huge opportunity that comes with this process: finally, a return to people and their needs. That’s what makes this process so sustainable. Because it’s about nothing less than a whole new economy that we’re building. That’s why I find New Work to be more than just fashionable or a nice efficiency improvement. It should be the future of our economy.

How does the knowledge that companies need for digital transformation come into organizations?

The times when we could define a knowledge canon are long gone. The half-life of sensibly applied processes is also decreasing. At the same time, everything becomes more and more unfeasible and complex. These are real challenges for companies: how can they stay mobile and at the same time dependable? How can they stay adaptive and scale at the same time? That’s why organizational learning is so important to me. In the future, learning and working will be closely interlinked – when we work, we will learn. And best of all, we learn the same way we work: digital, connected, collaborative. We’re also experimenting with these formats with companies as part of the Accelerate Academy. We help them to learn. In the future, it will be a very significant locational advantage.

Thank you for the interesting interview!